Exercise and meditation may help ward off depression: Study

Exercise and meditation may help ward off depression: Study

One can’t get rid of depression simply by “warding off” the blues. According to experts, working out and other forms of physical activity can help ease those symptoms and make one feel better. As people at risk for depression deal with a lot of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs, meditation can help them look at the world from a new perspective, leading to an increase in self-compassion and a decrease in emotional distress.

A study by the Rutgers University has now established a link between depression and mind and body. The study, published in the Translational Psychiatry in February 2016, says that a combination of mental and physical training (MAP) can reduce symptoms of depression by 40 percent.

Study findings

The lead authors of the study, Brandon Alderman, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science, and Tracey Shors, professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, enrolled 22 men and women suffering from depression and 30 mentally healthy students for an eight-week program. The participants began the treatment with 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Surprisingly, aerobic exercise was found to increase the number of new neurons in the brain and keep a significant number of these cells alive.

At the end of the study, the participants experienced a marked reduction in their depressive symptoms and also admitted to not worrying about negative situations taking place in their lives, as they did before the study began. And when this group offered the MAP training to young mothers experiencing severe depressive symptoms, they too said that their depression and anxiety had calmed down and that they were able to focus more positively on their lives.

Researchers believe that people who are grappling with depression can acquire new cognitive skills by learning to focus their attention and exercise, to recover from these stressful life events. “We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health,” says Alderman. “The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.”

“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” says Shors. “But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”

Path to recovery

According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected by this devastating mental disease. For long, scientists believed that the most common treatment for depression includes medications that influence brain chemicals and regulate emotions and thought patterns. But studies have now shown that physical activity, such as regular walking, may help improve one’s mood. When people suffer from anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing they want to do, but once they get started, it gives them a greater sense of self-efficacy.

Depression is a lifelong condition, wherein therapists should aim to reduce frequent episodes of the mental condition. In doing so, healthcare professionals need to conduct a more thorough review of a patient’s psychiatric history with depression and anxiety and explore other potential risk factors that could influence a sudden and unexpected episode.

It is imperative to take depression seriously as it can be very damaging if left untreated. Do not wait for symptoms to grow to a level wherein the patient loses all hope to recover. If you or your loved one is dealing with depression, the Texas Depression Treatment Help can guide you to effective and medically proven techniques to deal with the problem. You may call us at 866-827-0282 or chat online for further information.